BOOK BLOG: L.D.Lapinski

The Strangeworlds Travel Agency: the start of a complete adventure that I can’t wait to go along on!

Image result for strange world travel agency

“At the Strangeworlds Travel Agency, each suitcase transports you to a different world. All you have to do is step inside…
When 12-year-old Flick Hudson accidentally ends up in the Strangeworlds Travel Agency, she uncovers a fantastic secret: there are hundreds of other worlds just steps away from ours. All you have to do to visit them is jump into the right suitcase. Then Flick gets the invitation of a lifetime: join Strangeworlds’ magical travel society and explore other worlds. But, unknown to Flick, the world at the very centre of it all, is in danger. Buildings and even streets are mysteriously disappearing. Once Flick realizes what’s happening she must race against time before it collapses into nothingness — and takes our world with it.”

Now, we all know I love a good fantasy book over here at A Little But A Lot, and it’s SO INCREDIBLY REFRESHING to read a fantasy book that I haven’t come across before. To read a bunch of characters, a plot and a world (or group of worlds) that I’ve not come across is just gorgeous. You can’t beat that feeling of stepping into a new world and just falling head over hells for it. With The Strangeworlds Travel Agency, I found that. I found a book that I needed to devour. I read it greedily. I needed to know what was coming next. I wanted to know what was going on. I had a million questions and I needed the answers. There were characters who I needed to know more about. I wanted their back stories. 

The premise of this book, this series of books I SHOULD say (we all know I love a series too so that was music to my ears) is that there are magical people in the world who have the powers to visit other worlds through magical suitcases. Young Flick (our MC) is a girl who discovers she is able to do this, but it comes at a price: saving the world. Imagine that… being able to open one of these magical suitcases and jumping in (following the rules of course) and then being in a new and wonderful world. I don’t know that I’d be brave enough to do that to be honest, but I absolutely love the idea. Something that I love about this book is that it made the ordinary extraordinary. Nothing was quite what it seemed. There was always a bit of a spark of magic with everything. There was that twinkle in the eye.

The world building in this book is top notch. From Flick and Jonathon’s very real world, to the many and varied worlds they jump into, there’s something for everyone. I loved that as I went through, it was a very immersively written book. You are there. As you read, it’s like reading a film. You see it so clearly and you can’t help but feel like you’re there. Regardless of where you are, who you’re with, you’re there in the book in the amazing array of worlds that Lapinski has written. Each of the unique worlds are crafted so beautifully that you could quite happily stay there to discover the magic and the wonder in these places. You leave with more questions than you started with and I think that’s the majesty of this book. You should have more questions. You should want more from these worlds. That’s what makes you want to read more. I can’t wait to see where we get to explore in the coming books.

Along with the incredible worlds that I really adored, you have characters who show the determination, braveness and humour that the best people have. You meet Flick: brave, bold, brazen. She finds out she’s got to help save a city from certain destruction, but not just the city, but the world. She’s hesitant at first (who’d blame her?) but allows her curiosity to bubble under the surface. She wants to seem cool, but we all know that deep down she can’t wait to get her feet wet and start adventuring. She’s a brilliantly loveable character. Alongside Flick, we have the ever sassy and much needed Jonathon. He’s got a very quick wit; there’s a lot of snark. He seems to be uncaring, but deep down he very much takes his job seriously. He’s desperate to do something about finding what was lost. He needs help, but he’s a bit proud. He definitely shone to me as a character that you don’t read much in MG books and I think he is a WELCOME addition to the world of MG. Both of these characters are the kind that grip onto you and you can’t quite get rid of in the very best ways. You become invested in them and what is happening to them, so you HAVE to read on to know they’re OK. 

Something which makes this book even more wonderful in my opinion is its exploration of themes which are very real to us all: friendship, identity, family, loss and love in all its guises. Books for kids are more so dealing with bigger and bigger issues and I welcome it with open arms. This book doesn’t shy from dealing with these issues and they’re done in a brilliant way. You very much have an incredible adventure book here that weaves these subplots into the story so you experience them with the characters. I loved the friendship between Jonathon and Flick. It’s unconventional, but it works. They balance each other so beautifully. They’re what the other needs, without accepting that as a thing. I can’t wait to watch their friendship blossom in the rest of the series. There’s nods to gender identity that I think are really bloody important. It’s not a big thing, but it’s there. It’s done so seamlessly and beautifully that it’s just part of the book.

Reading Strangeworlds made me laugh, cry and delighted me. It’s a hug in a book that’s just taken you on a bit of an adventure. It’s danger and then a cup of tea and a biscuit offered when you get back. It’s a glorious mix of is an hope, adventure, exploration, love, humour, excitement, and because every good book needs it, a bit of peril. You never feel like you’re not safe though. This book is a complete hit in my reading life and I can’t wait to see how everything is explored and developed in the coming books. I finished book 1 with SO MANY QUESTIONS, so bring on book 2!

My Goodreads review:

A complete and utter ride. Just everything I needed in a book: magic, friendship, laughter, snark and adventure. I think this is gonna be something huge. Bloody loved every second. There’s something for everyone here and I can’t wait for the world to read it. The characters are amazing; the worlds are just exceptional and the writing is lush. I want to be part of this world!

Because I loved this book so much, I created this mood board that isn’t really spoiler-y at all, but was a collection of pictures that I saw and definitely made me think of this incredible book!

strangeworlds

Phew. What a mammoth review that was. But I need you guys to know that this book is magical and brilliant and wonderful. Out in April, I implore you all to preorder it now!

Would you jump through a suitcase if it took you somewhere new?
What would you hope to see/find there?
HAVE YOU PREORDERED THIS ALREADY PLEASE?

A massive thank you to my friend for letting me read her proof copy of this book! It was much needed for my little brain! And thank you to YOU for reading my blog!

S x

Top 10 YA books of the year

As you saw last week, I shared my top 10 MG books of 2019, so today it’s only fair that it is the turn of my favourite other loves: YA books. 

I’m a lot more likely to read outside of my comfort zone in YA books than I am with MG books. I’m not sure why this is! If you go through the shelves of the books that I’ve bought for school, it is a WHOLE chunk of fantasy, whereas with my YA collection, I tend to deviate a bit more. 

There were a few surprises on this list, but in the loveliest way. Books that I read and that clearly made an impact on me when I read them. Like I said with my MG list though, this is not a definitive list because you might ask me again in a month and I might have changed my mind haha. I gave these lists SERIOUS consideration however, so this is PRETTY close to spot on! 

Like in my MG post, I’ll give you a short review of each to go alongside, just to give you a flavour. If you have any extra questions about any of the books, just ask me! These books are all incredible so I will be MORE THAN HAPPY to talk about them!

Right… here goes..

My top 10 YA books of 2019

(again books I READ in 2019 because one of them isn’t out til 2020)

2019 best ya

Song of Sorrow by Melinda Salisbury 
(shocker I know)

Dear Lord in the heavens. What is this life? This is EXCEPTIONAL. Mel has done it again. Twists and turns. Characters you’ll love. Characters you’ll hate. Genuine shocks. GOD I JUST LOVED IT.

And The Stars Were Burning Brightly by Danielle Jawando

Friends. This book DESTROYED me.

(Good review Steph…)

With The Fire On High by Elizabeth Acevedo

Loved this. Bloody gorgeous voice and a really interesting plot. I loved Emoni so much. She’s brave, scared and a proper mama bear. I loved her Buela too. This book is like a hearty meal: it leaves you satisfied and warm. Bloody yes.

Fierce Fragile Hearts by Sara Barnard
(another shocker I know)

This book was JUST PERFECT. I felt EVERYTHING: sadness, joy, heartache, anger. I laughed, I cried, I wanted to shout. Sara has written the most incredible story with brilliant messages about doing what’s right for you, being ok being you and the importance of your chosen family – friends, family and the people you surround yourself with. I love that these books don’t shy away from dealing with TOUGH themes.

The Toll by Neal Shusterman

Friends. Enemies. Lovers. Killers. I just can’t tell you how much this book ABSOLUTELY wrecked me. It kept me on my toes, kept me guessing, kept me reading. Neal Shusterman did it again. The final book in the Scythe series and it is incredible. It’s FULL of twists and turns. It’s unexpected. It’s BRILLIANT. I just adored it. Being back in this world again was an absolute delight and I’m so sad it’s over.

The Burning by Laura Bates

This book is INTENSE. But in the BEST WAY POSSIBLE. It’s hard to read, it’s gritty, it’s history and now. It’s girls arguing, it’s online shaming, it’s history repeating. Betrayal, lies, secrets, fresh starts, friendship, honesty. Just bloody magnificent.

Viper by Bex Hogan

Pirate assassins? Magic? Brilliant main character? A dad who is TRULY the worst? Absolutely yes. I adored Bronn and Grace with all that I am. Marianne deserves like the rest of her life to just chill after what she’s been through, but she’s definitely going to have more adventures. I can’t wait for book 2. I really really enjoyed this.

No Big Deal by Bethany Rutter

If I could swear, o would. This book is exceptional. I am/was Emily and there’s nothing more important that seeing yourself in a book. I hope every young girl gets a chance to read it. Loving yourself is SO IMPORTANT. This book made me laugh, cry and want to shout. Just bloody marvellous.

The Boy Who Steals Houses by C.G.Drews

Deary me. Sam – what a pickle you find yourself in. This book is just magnificent. I am a crying mess. This book is hard edges and summers days. It’s light and dark. It’s love and hate. It’s everything I needed. The thing that really makes this book is it’s characters. I just adored every single thing.

A Girl Called Shameless by Laura Steven

Man. What a book. What a story. What a young lady Izzy O’Neill is. I just adore her. This book makes me want to make a stand about everything I see wrong with the world. I love the characters, the messages, the flaws, the worry, the relationships. I CACKLED SO SO MUCH. Just incredible.

Eeeeeh man. There you go. My top 10 YA books of 2019. I have committed now. I have no regrets. All of these books are EXCEPTIONAL. There are many many other YA books that could have been in with a chance of being on this list. In fact, this list was more changeable than the MG list which says something! 

Have you read all of the books on my list?
Did you have a favourite of these books?
Are there any you haven’t read?

I’d love to talk about these books with anyone who will listen! Talk to me in the comments or over on twitter!

S x 

Top 10 MG books of the year

We have made it to that time of a year (well a NEW year) where I have to make that IMPOSSIBLE decision where I share my FAVOURITE books of the year just gone. 

Anyone who knows me, knows that this is a HARD thing for me to do.

I love reading. I love books. I love stories. I love characters. I love exploring new worlds. I love meeting new villains. I love clever, fiesty plots and puzzles. Stories make me a very happy girl indeed. 

I don’t know why I put myself through this decision every year, but every year I do. This list is not a definitive list at all. You could ask me again in a week’s time and there may be one or two changes. But I am fairly confident in this list. I read some ABSOLUTE bangers in 2019. I fell in love with lots of different characters, settings, villains, plots and plot twists. I’m a VERY lucky duck. 

However, you’re not here to listen to me ramble on… so here we have it:

My top 10 MG books I read in 2019

(I say read in 2019 because 1 of them is out in 2020)

2019 mg of the year pic

WOAH. There you have it. They’re not in any particular order.

Looking at that list of books and thinking this is the best of the best tells me that I read some ABSOLUTE SMASHERS last year.

 The Girl Who Speaks Bear by Sophie Anderson

Storytelling at its very finest. Brilliant characters, beautiful worlds, exciting adventures and powerful messages. I just adored this. Yanka is a character that kids and adults will adore, and relate to! You can’t beat a bit of finding yourself and your people (or animals) with a good bit of story woven together. Just bloody brilliant.

Against all Gods by Maz Evans 

An incredibly heartbreaking and heartwarming way to finish this series. I 100% wept for the last 30 pages or so. This book is HILARIOUS. It’s interesting. It’s cool. It’s everything you want in the last book of a series. IM JUST SO SAD ITS OVER. Elliot is the bravest of souls and i just think he’s wonderful.

Jemima Small versus the Universe by Tamsin Winter

This book is a rip-roaring revelation. I adored it so so much. Meet Jemima Small, a young girl who is anything but small. She’s big and people like to pick on her for it. I loved this because it didn’t shy away from the truth about being a young, fat kid. You do get bullied, people do say things, you do get looks. I have been Jemima. I can’t wait to put this in the hands of so many young people and tell them you can be whoever you want because you are PERFECT just the way you are. Absolutely magnificent.

High Rise Mystery by Sharna Jackson

A BRILLIANT detective book for kids. It’s interesting, funny and has characters you’ll love. I am so glad there’s going to be more because I genuinely could’ve kept going.

The Truth Pixie Goes To School by Matt Haig

A gorgeously written story about the power of friendship, truth and lies. I love these books so much. This is going to be something I read and use in the classroom for years to come!

Ghost by Jason Reynolds

This book is gritty, determined and shocking at times. I just thought it was incredible. A gripping story about a young boy who is running from his past and ends up in more trouble. Along comes someone who believes in him and things start to change. Bloody yes. This book is a proper victory.

Owen and the Soldier by Lisa Thompson

Really bloody enjoyed this. Owen is a BRILLIANT MC and this story is proper touching. Man, I’m definitely not in bed crying… NOPE.

The Strangeworlds Travel Agency by L.D.Lapinski (released in 2020)

A complete and utter ride. Just everything I needed in a book: magic, friendship, laughter, snark and adventure. I think this is gonna be something huge. Bloody loved every second. There’s something for everyone here and I can’t wait for the world to read it. The characters are amazing; the worlds are just exceptional and the writing is lush. I want to be part of this world!

Frostheart by Jamie Littler

GUYS. This is exceptional. It’s fun, daring, dangerous and cool. I absolutely loved my journey on Frostheart with Ash and the crew. A proper icy cold ride, with a massive heart. The illustrations throughout add so much too. Absolute smasher!

Pages and Co 2: Tilly and the Lost Fairytales by Anna James

Wonderfully brave Tilly is on another brilliant, book-loving filled adventure with some familiar faces from fairy tales. If you’ve not picked up these books yet, you absolutely should. I wish I was Tilly’s friend.

And there you go. My 10 favourite MG reads of 2019. 

2019 was an absolutely cracking year for MG books and I could EASILY have had a completely different list. I recommend whole heartedly each and every single book on that list though. 

What were your favourite MG books of 2019?
Do you, like me, struggle to put together a top 10 list?
Have you read all of the books on my list?

I’d love to know your thoughts! MG books are a proper passion of mine so I love talking about them to anyone who will engage with me!

S x 

2019 in books…

Hola amigos!

It is time for my 2019 in books round up. Well, one of them! I’m literally just using THIS POST as inspiration and changing 2018 to 2019. Get yourself a cup of tea and get comfy! I know we technically haven’t finished 2019 yet… but I’m just getting in there early!

**2019 READING STATS**

NUMBER OF BOOKS YOU READ: 138
NUMBER OF RE-READS: 0
GENRE YOU READ THE MOST FROM: FANTASY?

best-YA-books-2014

1. BEST BOOK YOU READ IN 2019?

I REFUSE TO ANSWER THIS QUESTION. 

2. BOOK YOU WERE EXCITED ABOUT & THOUGHT YOU WERE GOING TO LOVE MORE BUT DIDN’T?

The Girls by Emma Cline. I just wanted a lot more from it. It was fine, but I didn’t LOVE it. (I’m always looking for cult books if anyone has a recommendation for me!)

3. MOST SURPRISING (IN A GOOD WAY OR BAD WAY) BOOK YOU READ? 

Sanctuary by V.V.James. I don’t read a lot of adult fantasy books because I generally find them quite hard going, but my god I DEVOURED this book. It is INCREDIBLE.

4. BOOK YOU “PUSHED” THE MOST PEOPLE TO READ (AND THEY DID)?

Lol, it would be a crime for me not to say Melinda Salisbury here because that is what I am MOST well known for, lets be real. I will forever shout about Mel’s books. Come at me.

5. BEST SERIES YOU STARTED IN 2019? BEST SEQUEL OF 2019? BEST SERIES ENDER OF 2019?

Best series I started? And Then I Turned Into A Mermaid – Laura Kirkpatrick
Best sequel? Patina – Jason Reynolds (I am ALL about this Run series, give me the new book INSTANTLY)
Best series ender? Maz Evans – Against All Gods (I am so so so deeply saddened this series is over)

6. FAVORITE NEW AUTHOR YOU DISCOVERED IN 2019?

I read quite a lot of books from new authors (either debuts or new to me) but I have to give this prize to Bethany Rutter. No Big Deal was a BIG DEAL to me this year and I just can’t wait to see what else she writes.

7. BEST BOOK FROM A GENRE YOU DON’T TYPICALLY READ/WAS OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE?

I find these questions really hard because I’m not a massively adventurous reader. I stick to what I know! Probably This Is Going To Hurt by Adam Kay though. That book needs to be read by every single person on this bloody planet because it is bloody brilliant.

8. MOST ACTION-PACKED/THRILLING/UNPUTDOWNABLE BOOK OF THE YEAR?

Now… action packed, thrilling and unputdownable are VERY DIFFERENT THINGS, but let me try and choose ONE book… Viper by Bex Hogan. That book definitely HAS A LOT going on. You should read it if you haven’t yet.

9. BOOK YOU READ IN 2019 THAT YOU WOULD BE MOST LIKELY TO RE-READ NEXT YEAR?

Now here we go again… everyone say it with me. I’m not much of a rereader. However I would be more than happy to reread a lot of the books I read in 2019. Mainly Song of Sorrow because I miss Luvian Fen so much.

10. FAVORITE COVER OF A BOOK YOU READ IN 2019?

It would be criminal for me to say that Circe isn’t my favourite cover of last year. That cover is DISGUSTINGLY beautiful (yes, I appreciate a shiny cover)

11. MOST MEMORABLE CHARACTER OF 2019?

Luvian bloody Fen. That fella HAS TAKEN OVER MY LIFE.

12. MOST BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN BOOK READ IN 2019?

The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy. God guys. Just gosh.

13. MOST THOUGHT-PROVOKING/ LIFE-CHANGING BOOK OF 2019?

And The Stars Were Burning Brightly by Danielle Jawando. Excuse me. It’s not out til next year but you guys are IN FOR IT. This book is HEARTBREAKINGLY BEAUTIFUL.

14. BOOK YOU CAN’T BELIEVE YOU WAITED UNTIL 2019 TO FINALLY READ? 

I mean it only came out in 2019, but I read A Curse So Dark and Lonely A LONG TIME after everyone else did.

15. FAVORITE PASSAGE/QUOTE FROM A BOOK YOU READ IN 2019?

GOD KNOWS. Like genuinely. Although the ending of Song of Sorrow is just what I needed and didn’t know I wanted.

16. SHORTEST & LONGEST BOOK YOU READ IN 2019?

Shortest – Why You Should Read Children’s Books, Even Though You Are So Old and Wise by Katherine Rundell (80 pages)
Longest – The Toll by Neal Shusterman (640 pages)

17. BOOK THAT SHOCKED YOU THE MOST?

The Boy Who Steals Houses by C.G.Drews. I didn’t expect to fall in love with that book quite as much as I did.

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (YOU WILL GO DOWN WITH THIS SHIP!)?

Sorrow and Luvian 4lyf. (Although, me and Luvian too) But I must also give a shout out to all of the ships I definitely shipped this year.

19. FAVORITE NON-ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIP OF THE YEAR?

Emily and the relationship she has with her body in No Big Deal by Bethany Rutter. 

20. FAVORITE BOOK YOU READ IN 2019 FROM AN AUTHOR YOU’VE READ PREVIOUSLY?

LOTS OF THEM OK? I LOVE BOOKS.

21. BEST BOOK YOU READ IN 2019 THAT YOU READ BASED SOLELY ON A RECOMMENDATION FROM SOMEBODY ELSE/PEER PRESSURE/BOOKSTAGRAM, ETC.:

Circe by Madeleine Miller. Queen Mel kept recommending this, so obviously I read it.

22. NEWEST FICTIONAL CRUSH FROM A BOOK YOU READ IN 2019?

Malachi from With The Fire On High by Elizabeth Acevedo. He just seems like the sweetest sweetheart.

23. BEST 2019 DEBUT YOU READ?

A Pocketful of Stars by Aisha Bushby, The Strangeworlds Travel Agency by L.D.Lapinski or No Big Deal by Bethany Rutter. I read LOADS of amazing debuts this year!

24. BEST WORLDBUILDING/MOST VIVID SETTING YOU READ THIS YEAR?

Now while I could of course recommend Queen Mel here (the queen of world building), I’d also like to give a shout out to Sophie Anderson for her gorgeous settings in The Girl Who Speaks Bear. 

25. BOOK THAT PUT A SMILE ON YOUR FACE/WAS THE MOST FUN TO READ?

Boot by Shane Hegarty.

26. BOOK THAT MADE YOU CRY OR NEARLY CRY IN 2019?

LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL. See every book I read. Books that really broke my heart this year? Against all Gods, A Pocketful of Stars, They Both Die At The End, The Art of Being Normal, This Is Going To Hurt, And The Stars Were Burning Brightly.

27. HIDDEN GEM OF THE YEAR?

A Tale of Magic by Chris Colfer. I bought it on a whim because the kids at school love his other books and I just adored it.

28. BOOK THAT CRUSHED YOUR SOUL?

Lol, see my answers to Q26.

29. MOST UNIQUE BOOK YOU READ IN 2019?

High Rise Mystery by Sharna Jackson. The way it’s set out and written proper makes it stand out in my head!

30. BOOK THAT MADE YOU THE MOST MAD (DOESN’T NECESSARILY MEAN YOU DIDN’T LIKE IT)?

I Hold Your Heart by Karen Gregory. That book made me SO FUCKING cross. It’s well worth a read, but my god.

book-blogging

1. NEW FAVORITE BOOK BLOG/BOOKSTAGRAM/YOUTUBE CHANNEL YOU DISCOVERED IN 2019?

I don’t watch a lot of booktube to be honest, so I will tell everyone who is still reading to go and subscribe to my boy George Lester.

2. FAVORITE POST YOU WROTE IN 2019?

OH MY GOSH. I can not choose. I have quite a few!

3. FAVORITE BOOKISH RELATED PHOTO YOU TOOK IN 2019?

I don’t take great photos haha! So I’m not sure!

4. BEST BOOKISH EVENT THAT YOU PARTICIPATED IN (AUTHOR SIGNINGS, FESTIVALS, VIRTUAL EVENTS, ETC.)?

YALC is always a great highlight. I get to spend a few days with my favourite people in the world and books, what’s not to love? Mel Salisbury’s book launch was also bloody magnificent.

5. BEST MOMENT OF BOOKISH/BLOGGING LIFE IN 2018?

Chairing events with some of the authors I love and respect the most in the world is always an incredibly mind blowing thing to do!

6. MOST CHALLENGING THING ABOUT BLOGGING OR YOUR READING LIFE THIS YEAR?

Those times where my MH just doesn’t wanna play and therefore I don’t read/blog like I would love to be doing!

7. MOST POPULAR POST THIS YEAR ON YOUR BLOG (WHETHER IT BE BY COMMENTS OR VIEWS)?

Oooh. I’m not sure! Let me find out! THIS MAKES ME SO HAPPY. My most viewed post is my #SixforSunday prompts post! YAY for #SixforSunday!

8. POST YOU WISHED GOT A LITTLE MORE LOVE?

Meh. I’m indifferent to this question. I don’t write things for people to like? I write things  want to write!

9. BEST BOOKISH DISCOVERY (BOOK RELATED SITES, BOOK STORES, ETC.)?

*shrug* I don’t know my pals. I do not know.

10.  DID YOU COMPLETE ANY READING CHALLENGES OR GOALS THAT YOU HAD SET FOR YOURSELF AT THE BEGINNING OF THIS YEAR?

I always set myself a Goodreads target and of course I smashed it!

looking-ahead-books-2015

1. ONE BOOK YOU DIDN’T GET TO IN 2019 BUT WILL BE YOUR NUMBER 1 PRIORITY IN 2020?

Lol. So many. I’m not sorry either. I’ve still not read THUG. *shrug*

2. BOOK YOU ARE MOST ANTICIPATING FOR 2020 (NON-DEBUT)?

OH MY GOD. HOLD BACK THE TIDE. OMG. WHY IS IT NOT OUT YET?

3. 2020 DEBUT YOU ARE MOST ANTICIPATING?

Is it cheating to say the one I’m most anticipating is one I’ve already read? Cause I don’t care for your rules.

4. SERIES ENDING/A SEQUEL YOU ARE MOST ANTICIPATING IN 2020?

I NEED the rest of the Run series by Jason Reynolds like now. I love that series.

5. ONE THING YOU HOPE TO ACCOMPLISH OR DO IN YOUR READING/BLOGGING LIFE IN 2020?

Just keep enjoying it. That’s all I ever want. As soon as I’m not enjoying it, that’s when I’ll stop blogging.

6. A 2020 RELEASE YOU’VE ALREADY READ & RECOMMEND TO EVERYONE (IF APPLICABLE):

MG – The Strangeworlds Travel Agency by L.D.Lapinski. Friends. It is EXCELLENT. I can’t wait for the world to experience it!
YA – And The Stars Were Burning Brightly by Danielle Jawando. It BROKE MY SOUL. Please read it when it comes out because it is going to break yours too.

TA DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA. You made it! Congratulations if you made it this far. Let me know in the comments if you made it this far and I might send you a little prize!

S x

Fabulous non-fiction

Recently, I’ve received a few brilliant non-fiction titles in the post and I thought I would share them with you! 

NFF

I am LOVING how gorgeous and well-thought out non fiction books are becoming. For so long they weren’t very appealing to look at, but with so many of the new titles out now, that is all changing! It’s certainly helping children to pick up more non-fiction books! 

Colossus – Colin Hynson

Have you ever wondered how the Golden Gate Bridge was built? Or how workers with basic tools created enormous monuments in ancient times? And how do you build a flying laboratory in space? This fascinating book reveals some of the greatest feats of engineering in history. From enormous bridges and tunnels that run for hundreds of miles, to towering skyscrapers and massive space stations, discover how some of Earth’s most colossal structures were made in beautifully illustrated detail. 

This book is BLOODY magnificent. It’s full of facts, gorgeous illustrations and it kept me entertained for a good while learning all about different feats of engineering around the world. Whether you’re a lover of engineering and construction or not, this is definitely one that you should get your hands on. It’s just brilliant! 

Earth Shattering Events – Robin Jacobs

We humans take our domination of the planet for granted, but sometimes nature reminds us that this is an illusion. Tectonics rip open the earth, vast waves sweep away coastal towns, magma spews from volcanoes and hurricanes lay waste to entire countries. This book explores nature at its most destructive. Clear, coherent explanations break down the science behind phenomena including hurricanes, tornadoes, avalanches, earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes, alongside fascinating facts about the biggest and the worst. 

This book would be PERFECT for any kind of natural disasters topic in Upper Key Stage 2. It’s SUCH  spot on book. The explanations are scientific enough to educate, but clear enough to not baffle kids. I loved looking through all of the different pages. This might be one of my favourite books I’ve received lately because I learned SO MUCH. This is perfect for a geographer in your life! It’s not only informative but it is BRILLIANTLY illustrated by Sophie Williams: the illustrations add so much to it! Just spot on!

Gut Garden – Katie Brosnan

A visual exploration of the universe that exists within our own bodies. Within our bodies hides an entire world of organisms called microbes. They boost our immune systems, digest our food, regulate our metabolism and even impact on our mental health. This book follows the digestive process from the moment the food enters our mouths to the moment waste leaves our bodies. Along the way we learn about this fascinating scientific frontier and gain an insight into the vastecosystem that exists inside us.

This is another example of a book which is PERFECT for Upper Key Stage 2. This book is JAM-PACKED full of information for children to take in, talk about and thenprobe further. I love the way this book is presented and the information is in small chunks, which is easy to digest (ha). It’s so wonderful to read something which has been so well thought out and flows so well. Kids are going to love this because it covers things that we don’t talk about so much – it’s a bit gross, but fascinating! 

Unseen Worlds – Helene Rajcak and Damien Laverdunt

Discover a hidden universe of microscopic monsters right before your eyes. Travel to locations both familiar and strange as you search for the smallest creatures on Planet Earth. You’ll never see the world the same way again! Unfold each page to reveal stunningly detailed illustrations bursting with jelly-like amoebae, predatory centipedes, ravenous mosquitoes, and more mites than you could imagine. From the murky ocean depths to your kitchen cupboard, and even inside your nose, you’ll travel to locations both familiar and strange as you search for the smallest creatures on Planet Earth.

With fold out pages and a wonderful range of facts to learn, this book is one that I personally learned a lot from. I’m not a big fan of creepy crawlies and the likes, but this can’t hurt me so I am ALL about it! It’s wonderful that you get to explore places you never get to through a book, and in this you get to see microscopic things that your eyes never could and learn about them! What can I say? I’m a big fan of learning and books like this fascinate me because this is something someone knows a lot about! 

A massive thank you to the publicists from What on Earth Books, Templar Books and Cicada Books for these incredible additions to our non-fiction collection!

S x 

BOOK BLOG: Christmas is coming – an Advent book

Christmas Is Coming: the PERFECT book to help your little ones count down to Christmas!

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I know Advent has already started, but it is never too late to get yourself a gorgeous new book! Christmas is a wonderful time of year to get to share stories, make new traditions and do something as a family.

This book is the PERFECT tradition to start with your children because it is JAM PACKED full of gorgeous little snippets of Christmas joy.

You can’t tell on my picture (sorry for the shoddy photography skills) but on the cover there are flaps to open for each day of the countdown to Christmas. I’m a SUCKER for a book that counts down through Advent so when this came through my door I was floored with joy! I just wish I had my own children to share this with (I do, I have 30, ha!) 

As you count down through Advent, you get all kinds of different things. There’s recipes, there’s songs, there’s ideas for things to do to be kind! I love that there’s a range of things throughout the book as it means that there’s not just story, but it keeps children engaged. There’s a recipe for raspberry hot chocolate that is PARTICULARLY delicious! 

The illustrations throughout make this book even more beautiful in my opinion. You can’t beat a good bit of well illustrated book. I was very taken by this “Seek and Find” page… it took me a little while to find everything, but I think that’s what’s going to make it even more special for families. It’s something you can do together. You can spent 5 minutes at bed time reading this book and seeing what the day brings you! This could be read in a morning, at night: anytime of the day! Kids are just going to love this and I think parents will too (I know if I were a parent I would be ALL OVER THIS). 

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WHO DOESN’T LOVE A CHRISTMAS JOKE? I love a bad joke!

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All of the gorgeous Advent activities culminate in the story of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ for December 24th. I think that’s the PERFECT way to end this gorgeous book. There’s the whole story and it makes the perfect bed time read in all of the excitement of Christmas! Look at that page though… just exquisite! 

A massive thank you to the people at Abrams and Chronicle for sending me this. It made my heart so very happy when I received it! You should definitely go and check it out if you like the sound of it (and if you don’t, then I don’t think we can be friends!)

Are you a fan of an Advent countdown?
Do you have a favourite Christmas tradition?
What’s your favourite thing about the festive season?

Talk to me! I’d love to talk Christmas with you all!

S x 

November in books

Happy December everyone! 

Now that December is here, it’s almost time to start thining about the best books of the year! However, I’m not ready to do that yet. I’m here to share the books I read in November with you!

I’ll be honest with you all. November was a HARD month. I struggled quite a lot with my SAD. Work was tough. I’ve had to do a lot of soul searching and thinking. I’ve had to do a bit of crying. I’ve not read that many books because my brain just wasn’t in the right frame of mind. I was getting home and just wanted to climb into bed. I watched a lot of Colleen Ballinger videos because she seems like she’s the loveliest. That was easier for my brain than reading and that’s OK. I’m glad I managed to get through some books though, so that’s good! I got to read 2 of my most anticipated books in November and THAT WAS DELIGHTFUL.

MG books I read in November

I’m a massive fan of the Polar Bear Explorer’s series, so spotting Explorers on Black Ice Bridge in Waterstones filled me with ABSOLUTE delight. I read it in a matter of hours and it made me so happy. You’ll find my review here – I’d love it if you could check it out! 

I also managed to get my hands on my DELIGHTFUL FRIEND L.D.Lapinski’s debut MG novel, The Strangeworlds Travel Agency, thanks to my brilliant friend Adele. I DEVOURED it in a matter of hours… I had to pace myself because otherwise it was going to be over too quickly and FRIENDS. It is EXCEPTIONAL. It’s out next year and it’s available to preorder at all of the places. If you’re after something magical, fun, inclusive and a proper adventure, you should check it out. A full review is coming… I just need to formulate my thoughts into cohesive sentences. (Also, go follow Lapinski on twitter)

YA books I read in November

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Yes friends, you see that correctly. I was blessed by the book fairies (thank you Simon!) and was sent a proof One of Us Is Next by Karen M. McManus. I read it ALL on Saturday and it blew my mind. It’s SO SO good. I can’t talk about it too much because ALL OF THE SPOILERS WILL FALL OUT OF MY MOUTH. But it’s so good. It’s out in January and you guys need to get on it! (Also, if you’ve not read One of Us Is Lying, then where have you been? and you need to!)

Autobiographical/memoir books I read in November

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I adored This Is Going To Hurt by Adam Kay, so when I heard there was going to be another one, I knew I needed it. This one is much shorter and it’s just as brilliant. Would completely recommend both books!

And that’s it! That’s all the books I read in November. 

HOW AM I DOING FOR MY BOOK CHALLENGES?

GOODREADS CHALLENGE: 129/52
#52BOOKS CHALLENGE (JUST KIDS BOOKS): 68/52

Thanks for stopping by. Talk to me in the comments!

How did you do with your reading in November?
Did you have a more productive reading month than me?

What were your stand out books from last month?
Have you started thinking about your favourite books of the year yet?

S x 

BOOK BLOG: Alex Bell

Explorers on Black Ice Bridge: a rip-roaring adventure through icy cold depths!

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“Ice princess Stella Starflake and her father Felix are in trouble: President Fogg has expelled them from the Polar Bear Explorers’ Club, and banned them from going on any further expeditions. Stella’s not going to be put off by rules and regulations though. She knows her friend Shay is in danger of turning into a witch wolf himself, since receiving a deadly bite on their last adventure. It’s vital that Stella and her friends set out to find the spellbook that could save his life, even if it means travelling over the cursed Black Ice Bridge.”

Anyone who has spent any time on this blog knows that I am a MASSIVE fan of the Polar Bear Explorers series. The first book absolutely blew me away. The second book (of which you can read my review here) was one of the best books I read last year. I had very high hopes for the third book in the series. I’d been sat around ever since last year waiting for this to come out… and my word. What a total winner! 

Explorers on Black Ice Bridge starts with a total bang. Pearl and her dad Felix are in a  LOT of trouble. They got up to a lot of mischief (although I would argue they were doing it for good) in book 2, so they are having to deal with their actions now. The council of the Polar Bear Explorers’ Club are NOT happy with Stella and Felix. Ultimately, Stella and Felix are expelled from the Polar Bear Explorers’ Club (more fool the club in my opinion tbh). This leaves them in a very tricky situation because they still have an exploration they need to go on to save Stella’s friend, but now that they don’t belong to a club, they’re not allowed to. 

Of course, Felix being Felix, he knows that there is no such thing as an explorer who isn’t allowed to explore. He knows that Stella and her friends need to be able to get their mission completed because when friends are in need, it’s down to them to stick together to help. Felix and Stella, with the use of Stella’s ice magic and her friends, make things happen. They get the exploring ball rolling again. What ensues is a complete adventure into frozen lands, a surprisingly charming and funny flamingo who dons a top hat and friendship that always wins. 

Something I loved most about this book was that I was CONSTANTLY surprised. There were things that I wasn’t expecting. Characters you thought were one thing, who ended up being another thing. Choices made which definitely were unexpected. Settings and places I wouldn’t have predicted visiting. Some tiny subtle things which made my heart explode (there’s a wonderful bit about bad memories and it almost made me cry!). There’s a wonderful setting at the end of the story and it just floored me because it was SO out there, but it worked so beautifully for the story. 

There’s some wonderful messages in this book about looking after each other, the importance of kindness, looking after the world and being responsible. We are all responsible for the world we live on – whether it’s Stella in her world, or us in our world. This was a lovely thing to read because it wasn’t preachy, but it was beautifully written. Something which would make children think without intimidating them. 

My Goodreads review:

A rip-roaring adventure through ice, self doubt and friendship. With a flamingo (who is rather fun) and a menacing villain, this book was surprise after surprise. I really enjoyed this! I’m hoping there’s more to come because that ending lends itself to more…

If you’re looking for an icy adventure, perfect for a winter’s day, look no further than Explorers on Black Ice Bridge (but remember to read the two previous books first… they are MOST binge worthy). If you don’t fall for Felix, then we can’t be friends. 

I don’t know if this review does the book ANY justice… so please go out and read it! Then we can talk about how bloody awesome it is. I can’t wait to give it to my own explorers! They’re going to love it! 

Have you read Explorers on Black Ice Bridge?
Do you think you’d make a good explorer?
Where would you explore to if you had the chance?

Explorers on Black Ice Bridge is out now! GO GO GO!

S x 

BOOK BLOG: Elizabeth Acevedo

With The Fire On High: following your dreams is hard, but you’re so worth it!

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“Ever since she got pregnant, seventeen-year-old Emoni’s life has been about making the tough decisions – doing what has to be done for her young daughter and her grandmother. Keeping her head down at school, trying not to get caught up with new boy Malachi. The one place she can let everything go is in the kitchen, where she has magical hands – whipping up extraordinary food beloved by everyone.

Emoni wants to be a chef more than anything, but she knows it’s pointless to pursue the impossible. There are rules she has to play by. And yet, once she starts cooking, and gets that fire on high, she sees that her drive to feed will feed her soul and dreams too. And anything is possible.”

I was sent this book in the post a while ago and it took me a while to pick it up… and my god did I regret it taking me forever to read! This book is just wonderful: the voice, the writing style, the rollercoaster you go on.

Everything about this book spoke to me: as a reader, a dreamer, a woman and a human.

This book tells the story of Emoni, a young mother who is trying to keep all of her plates balanced on their sticks. She’s trying to be the best mam she can be to Babygirl; the best coparent with her ex (who is a bit of a twat tbh); the best granddaughter to her lovely Buela; the best student she can be at school. As soon as she manages to get one of these plates balanced, another one manages to unbalance itself. She’s dealing with all of these things and then her dream opportunity comes along. 

Emoni loves cooking. She’s free in the kitchen. She can play by her own rules. There are no rules. It’s all about feel and flavour. It’s something she just gets. It’s a place for her to be her truest self. She can play and experiment and feel without worrying that she’s going to be wrong – because she knows she KNOWS this stuff. Or at least she thinks she does. When she gets the chance to choose a cooking class at school, she starts to realise that there are rules to cooking. There’s things she has to do. It isn’t always just knowing and following your gut: it’s about following a recipe how it is. Emoni finds this a hard lesson to learn. Her teacher is hard on her (this frustrated me at first because I was totally #teamEmoni) but you realise that there’s a reason for this!

As you read the story, you follow this wonderfully charming and beautiful young girl on an exploration of accepting and loving who she is and following her dreams, even when it seems that all of the odds are stacked against her. She’s given the chance to go to Spain as part of her cooking class… and of course she knows she’ll never be able to afford it. 

I loved this book. It’s one of those brilliant books that comes along and shocks you with its gorgeousness. Emoni’s voice is spot on. Her story is one I wanted to know more about. I wanted things to work out for her. She’s fiercely brave. She’s flawed. She worries. She’s trying her hardest to be everything for everyone else, so when the chance comes to be something for herself, she initially decides she’s not worthy. I could’ve happily read this book if it were 100 pages longer. I wanted more of Emoni’s story. She’s one of those characters I just fall for and root for completely. 

This is the perfect story about the brilliance of women and their spirit. Emoni is surrounded by wonderful women, from her bloody marvellous Buela, to her Babygirl and her best friend. We all know women are brilliant and this book is a wonderful celebration of this. 

My Goodreads review:

Loved this. Bloody gorgeous voice and a really interesting plot. I loved Emoni so much. She’s brave, scared and a proper mama bear. I loved her Buela too. This book is like a hearty meal: it leaves you satisfied and warm. Bloody yes.

A massive thank you to Hot Key Books for sending me a copy of this book. I wanna hug it so hard. 

Have you read With The Fire On High?
What’s one of your secret ambitions?
Where is the one place you’d love to visit?

Talk to me! I’d love to know if anyone else has read this!

Speak to you all soon!

S x 

BOOK BLOG: We Are Artists

We Are Artists: a gorgeous exploration of the life and work of 15 female artists from around the world.

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We Are Artists places the spotlight on women painters, sculptors, printmakers, illustrators, designers, and craftswomen who created monumental artwork, often against daunting odds. The book includes reproductions of modern and contemporary artwork by Frida Kahlo, Yayoi Kusama, Georgia O’Keeffe, Alma Thomas, and Kenojuak Ashevak, to name a few. Through their personal stories, readers will learn about the art movements each artist worked in and the influence they exerted on both the art world and society as a whole.”

I received this book in the post this week from the absolute wonders over at Thames and Hudson and I can see SO MUCH coming from this book that my brain is BRIMMING with ideas! 

We Are Artists is a gorgeous exploration of 15 different female artists from around the world, their art and their work. I’ll be honest, art is not my strong point, but learning about inspiring and innovative women is something that I am VERY PASSIONATE about. This book is jam packed with information and it’s all beautifully presented – there’s nothing worse than a boring inside to a non-fiction book. 

Something I love (and learned though reading this book) about this book is that it puts the spotlight on not just painters but printmakers, illustrators, designers and craftswomen alike who are often missed out of history/art history books. I’ll be honest there’s one or two of the women who I hadn’t heard of/didn’t know a lot about in this book, so naturally they were the pages I started with. I think it’s really important to expose children to as many different types of artist as possible because for some children artists are only people who sit at an easel and paint! 

For each artist, you get a gorgeous portrait, a quote from them and then a few pages all about their lives. Through each of the biographies of these incredibly inspiring women, you get pictures of their artwork along with dates. The information is written in a way which tells you what the women had to go through, but in a sensitive and carefully crafted manner. (If it’s not already clear, I’m a massive fan of a biography and this book makes me so happy as a teacher and a reader).

Some of my favourite quotes from these women:

‘If you’re not afraid, how can you really be brave?’ (Tove Jansson)

‘Not all of us are painters but we are all artists. Each time we fit things together we are crezating’ (Corita Kent)

‘My art is not my career, it is myself’ (Amrita Sher-Gil)

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Something else I loved about this book is that at the back there is a glossary of terms. For me, as an inexperienced and unconfident art teacher, this was so helpful. You can never stop learning in the world. Every day is a learning day in my life. The definitions are all really child friendly too and I think this is great – kids can take this book and just get on with reading it. 

SO… if you’re looking for an incredible piece of non-fiction about wonderful women who have made a stamp in art history, you should probably consider giving this a check out. 

Who is your favourite artist?
What kind of art is your favourite?
Do you have a secret bookish passion?

Talk to me in the comments! A massive thank you to the publishers, Thames and Hudson, for sending me a copy of this book. You guys are amazing: inspiring a new generation of artists! 

S x